Homeschooling affords great opportunities for students who wish to earn college credit during their high school years. Dual enrollment allows students to immerse themselves in real college courses, getting a head start on a post-secondary education while still at home and under their parents’ guidance. Dual enrollment can also result in financial savings over the course of a student’s college career, thanks to financial aid opportunities designated specifically for high school students. Most colleges offer dual enrollment programs on-campus, and many also have distance or online learning programs available to high schools students wishing to earn dual credit.
HomeLife Academy allows and encourages students to take advantage of the opportunity to earn credit for high school and college simultaneously. A three-hour college course will be counted as one credit on a HomeLife transcript, and a one-hour course will be counted as a half-credit. Any course offered by a college can be counted as a dual enrollment course on our transcripts. Furthermore, there are no limits on how many of your high school courses can be taken as dual enrollment. Some of our students, seniors especially, take all of their courses through dual enrollment!
At Jackson State Community College, a number of area teens enrolled with HomeLife are taking college courses in order to get a head start on their post-secondary goals. Andrew Shreeve, a HomeLife senior, is taking English Composition I. He says the best thing about dual enrollment is that “it gives you the college experience while still being under your parents.” He is glad for the opportunity to get an introduction to college work while he is still able to easily turn to his parents for help. Many students find that dual enrollment courses give them a good idea of what college will require, helping them to prepare for the change rather than being thrown head-first into a strange and sometimes stressful new environment.
Andrea Winchester, the director of High School Initiatives at Jackson State, says the opportunities for dual enrollment as a homeschooler are great. Homeschoolers may actually have an advantage in the classroom, she says, since, “In a homeschool setting, the parent knows the ability of their student. They’re used to working independently, thinking independently, doing their own research, and working at their own pace.” Furthermore, the flexibility of a homeschool schedule enables students more choices for dual enrollment courses. “They’re not bound by the limits of the school day and what the institution will give them credit for,” Andrea says. “In some high schools, we have students who are taking courses that they’re only given elective credit, it’s not counting toward anything at their high school, so it’s not traditionally dual enrollment where you’re getting both high school and college credit at the same time. And they’re bound by what high schools offer, we have some high schools that will only offer History and English, whereas a homeschool student has the opportunity to take whatever they choose to take.”
Homeschoolers planning on completing a degree can also be motivated by long-term savings. In Tennessee, a dual enrollment grant is available to juniors and seniors. Currently, the grant provides $300 per semester toward one course. At Jackson State, all courses are currently discounted to $300 for dual enrollment classes (including those with additional labs), so the amount of the grant pays for a course in its entirety. A student who wishes to take a second course that semester is eligible to receive $300 towards a second course if he or she meets the requirements for the HOPE scholarship. For homeschoolers, this means having a 21 composite score on the ACT and being enrolled as a homeschooler for at least one year. This means a student can take up to four courses a year using the dual enrollment grant! Additionally, a student who meets the requirements for the HOPE scholarship can also borrow against the HOPE scholarship with an additional $300 per course for up to four courses. Some students may hesitate to use funds that would have gone towards freshman-year tuition costs, but the advent of the Tennessee Promise program may allay any concerns about using the funds for students who plan to take advantage of the program by attending a two-year school or eligible institution. As a last-dollar scholarship, Tennessee Promise will make up the difference of the HOPE money used during the high school years. Therefore, students participating in the Promise program should take as many dual enrollment courses as they desire and feel comfortable with taking.
Tennessee families should know, however, that there will be some changes in the dual enrollment grant next year. The total amount will still be $1200 per year, but the distribution will be different. Since most Tennessee community colleges charge up to $500 per a course, the dual enrollment grant will now provide $500 each of the first two courses. Students can receive 200 dollars for the third dual enrollment course in an academic year. The fourth course will be out-of-pocket, and upon taking a fifth course a student can again borrow against the HOPE scholarship, still up to $1200 per a year. This will not apply to high school seniors in 2015-2016, but will apply to juniors and also to classes in subsequent years.
Counselor Lani Carey highly recommends dual enrollment courses for students enrolled with HomeLife as fifth year seniors. “Instead of doing a gap year, it makes much more sense to do another Senior year and take dual enrollment courses – that way, they can still work and save money for college, they don’t forfeit any scholarships (such as TN Promise), and they prepare for college by taking college courses. It really makes the transition much easier, not to mention their freshman year of college, since they don’t have so many courses to take.”
So what classes should your student take? The options are almost endless, but Lani recommends some good starting points: “Good dual enrollment courses to take are English Comp. I and II, US History I and II or either, math and science courses, foreign language, and Social Science courses such as Psychology or Sociology. Even if a student has taken US History as a high school course, they can still take US History as a dual enrollment course. In fact, all dual enrollment courses count as college prep courses. Just remember, in order to have the lottery grant pay for the dual enrollment course, a student must maintain a GPA of 2.75 in each course, so students want to make sure they are ready for college level work in the courses they sign up for.”
Admission requirements for dual enrollment may vary between schools. If you wish for your student to take courses at a particular school, you should contact that school well before the beginning of the semester so that you can find out what the requirements are and what forms will be needed. You will also need to find out the requirements for certain courses that a student wishes to take. For instance, at Jackson State Community College, students can take dual enrollment courses if they have a 3.0 GPA, but different courses have different ACT requirements. Most courses require a 19 on the reading portion of the ACT, but a math course would also require a 19 in mathematics, while English Composition would require an 18 in English. Colleges will have a form for to be filled out by a counselor or administrator in order for your student to take classes, so be sure to allow plenty of time for that as well.
If you would like to find out more about dual enrollment, visit our High School page. Also, remember that our high school counselors are available to help you with any other questions you might have.
Check out dual enrollment through Jackson State Community College! Now enrolling for Spring of 2015!